Journal Article - Energy Research & Social Science

Public Opinion on Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Weapons: The Attitudinal Nexus in the United States

| October 2020


Does a lack of enthusiasm for nuclear energy among the US public relate to connections with nuclear weapons? The United States is projected to decline as the global leader in nuclear power production due to stagnation in the industry. Alongside this trend, US public skepticism of nuclear energy has remained high for decades. Policymakers, industry, and pro- and anti-nuclear advocates must understand these attitudes given electricity needs, energy sector competition, and climate change. Existing scholarship explains public opinion on nuclear power by comparing its economic and environmental desirability with other energy sources. Yet, a critical area of public opinion remains understudied: the connection between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. Scholars have theorized such a relationship in the public consciousness, but the premise has not been systematically investigated. Two studies examine this theoretical linkage. Study 1 uses a nationally representative US survey experiment ( n=904 ) to validate that public attitudes toward civilian and military nuclear technologies are indeed related. Study 2 uses an exploratory survey experiment ( n=1,003 ) to show that persuasive information about each technology affects opinion about the other. These studies provide evidence of psychological linkage. In fact, attitudes toward nuclear weapons may even drive those on nuclear energy.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Baron, Jonathon and Stephen Herzog. "Public Opinion on Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Weapons: The Attitudinal Nexus in the United States." Energy Research & Social Science, vol. 68. no. 101567. (October 2020).

The Authors

Herzog Headshot